On May 30th, former Microsoft employee Jamen Shively held a press conference to announce his acquisition of the Northwest Patient Resource Center and intention to build what at first would be a national and then an international retail cannabis brand around his company Diego Pellicer.
With former Mexican President Vicente Fox at his right hand to lend legitimacy for his project, Shively spoke about what he called a “unique” historical context, stating “The Berlin wall of the prohibition of cannabis is weak…and it is crumbling as we speak.”
Fox, who is not involved in the project with Diego Pellicer, said that Shively’s actions were the beginning of a “path to change” that he sees as eventually freeing his nation from the influence of rich and powerful drug lords.
Public reaction has been mixed, with some embracing what has been called the Starbucks of cannabis and others cautiously pointing out that such a large scale enterprise is likely to draw unwanted attention from the US government, which still considers the possession and sale of marijuana as a violation of federal law. To date, the US government has tended to leave small marijuana operations that follow state law unprosecuted, but they have targeted large dispensaries and co-ops.
There are also legal questions that remain to be answered. The Department of Justice hasn’t come out with an official policy on how to handle marijuana distribution in states where it is legal. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised an answer, but it is unclear when a decision will be made. Additionally, while Washington and Colorado have recently passed laws legalizing both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, state laws require that related monies not cross state lines – something that is problematic when trying to establish a national brand.
Shively hasn’t gone into detail on how Diego Pellicer will clear legal hurdles, but maintains that he wants to create a “prosperous and safe” industry in accordance with the law. At the press conference John Davis, CEO of the Northwest Patient Resource Center stated that he and his partners are intent to “show how it can work.”
Regardless of one’s position on creating what Shively has dubbed “Big Marijuana” the legal challenges that Diego Pellicer will face will be instructive to both large and small marijuana distributors. Smaller distributors tend to be wary of Big Marijuana; however Big Marijuana will also likely end up spending large amounts of money on legal costs, helping to establish the legal framework for distribution and potentially shielding smaller distributors from excessive legal fees.
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